Lake Markermeer (700 km2) has had poor ecological quality for decades. Lake Markermeer used to be part of the Dutch Zuiderzee, but is now cut off from the North Sea by dams, dikes and reclaimed land. The lake has barely any natural shores. Its waters are often extremely turbid as wind and waves churn up the accumulated sediments from the relatively shallow lake floor (2-4 m deep). As a result, fish and bird populations have declined dramatically.
The Dutch Society for Nature Conservation (Natuurmonumenten) initiated an idea as a ‘Dream Project’, financed by Postcode Lottery. How to use silt to create calmer spaces? The plan was to restore the large freshwater lake by constructing islands, marshes and mud flats from the sediments in the lake. These ‘Marker Wadden’ can form a unique ecosystem that will boost biodiversity in the Netherlands.
Striking is the pace with which it was realized. In 2011, Natuurmonumenten wrote the Dream Project. Marker Wadden did not fit in existing rules and regulations, but governments decided to accept it because they had faith in the plan. In 2014, a partnership with Rijkswaterstaat (the national government) was signed. In 2015, a contractor was involved and 2018 the first people were visiting the new islands. Why did it all happen so quickly? Firstly, the ambitions fitted with the ambitions of the whole region: restoring nature and creating recreational opportunities. Secondly, the cooperation of many actors was a success factor. The set of organizations combined qualities in management of large infrastructure projects, nature management, exploiting media exposure, and water management. Rijkswaterstaat and Natuurmonumenten both changed the procedures inside their own organizations so they could deal better with adaptive management. The third reason was that the alliance was able to combine financing sources: Postcode Lottery, funds from different national ministries, and funds from local and regional governments. All resources were combined in one fund. The first island was already built before all finance was secured, to be able to show a result to the financing organizations.
Channel Deepening Project Melbourne
The Port of Melbourne is Australia’s largest container and general cargo port, with 37% of Australia’s container trade. By 2035 the Port aims to expand considerably, increasing the number of containers fourfold, and accommodating vessels up to 7,000 twenty foot equivalent units (TEUs). For this expansion, parts of the access channels to Melbourne in Port Phillip Bay had to be deepened in an environmentally sustainable way. To achieve this major expansion, the Port of Melbourne sought a relationship with a Contractor of shared responsibility and risk. An Alliance form of contract was chosen because it was found that commitment to such an arrangement gives the best opportunity for the delivery of outstanding outcomes regarding time, budget, safety and environmental performance. The contract was signed in May 2004 between Port of Melbourne Corporation (PoMC) and Boskalis Australia Pty Ltd.
Alliancing is a proven infrastructure procurement method that is being used by governments across Australia alongside other methods to deliver infrastructure to the community. In alliancing, a public sector agency delivers the project collaboratively with private sector parties in procuring major capital assets, and agrees to take uncapped risks and share opportunities. The key benefits of alliance contracting are the incentives it provides to the parties involved to work cooperatively to complete the project within the time and budget forecasts, to find the best solutions for the project (rather than for their own interests), and to work quickly and collaboratively to resolve issues as they arise. In alliancing, the project team is integrated; it is required to act in good faith, with integrity, keep to certain principles (such as ‘no blame’) and make unanimous decisions and recommendations on all key project issues. The concept of collective assumption of risk applies in alliance contracts where the alliance Participants bear all risks equitably (although not always equally regarding financial consequences). For complex projects with high risks that cannot be fully dimensioned, alliancing can potentially offer the best procurement strategy for achieving the government’s investment objectives. The alliance approach allows such risks to be worked through collaboratively as the project develops.
An Alliance Contract is based on mutual trust in which the roles, responsibilities and accountabilities of the partners are clearly defined. Furthermore, all decisions by the partners take into account stakeholder interests and are based on full disclosure. For that reason, in Melbourne the Alliance Contract was instrumental in overcoming one of the major non-technical obstacles to the execution of the dredging works: the negative reactions of some stakeholders in the vicinity of Port Phillip Bay. On-going discussions and the emergence of a local group of bayside residents who were clearly opposed to the project, eventually led to court action, which temporarily stopped the dredging operations. Working together, with a concerted communications effort to involve the public, the Contractor and PoMC were able to demonstrate the environmentally sound dredging methodology. This educational campaign included public hearings, an information program and school presentations. It also included extensive monitoring before, during and after the works as well as a multi-level corporate communications campaign. These open and transparent communication efforts played a significant role in reassuring many stakeholders that the channel deepening project could be conducted in a safe and environmentally sustainable manner.
The Alliance Contract signed by PoMC and Boskalis Australia required all actions and decisions to be based on ‘Best for Project’ principles. Considering the difficulties of the sea, the soil and environmental conditions, the project demanded a large investment in Research & Development to find innovative solutions. One of the issues involved responding to a group of local residents who launched a concerted media campaign with the express purpose of ceasing any dredging from occurring. An important conclusion from the Melbourne project is that the public has the right to transparency. The concerns of the public must also be the concerns of the contractor and client. Economic issues are important, but environmental and social issues are equally important. As a result of multi-disciplinary teams, thorough risk assessments, modelling, monitoring, a good Environmental Management Plan and clear communication about these activities, dredging at the Port has progressed solidly, environmental limits on the whole have been met, the opponents and media are less negative, and the concerns about dredging are more realistically perceived.